MEDIATION IN A UK SOCCER DISPUTE
EPISODE 5 THE CHAIR GOES OUTSIDE THE BOX
EPISODE 4 ENDED AS FOLLOWS
“So Ms Chair picks up the phone and speaks to the local Catholic Priest. In the Roman Catholic Church, a priest is given the title of Monsignor if he has attained a high level of distinction within the church and has been recognized for his work by the Pope for his contributions. It so happens that the local Priest, Monsignor Hapgood, has received such recognition from Pope Francis for his long service to the Community of Felixstowe. The Monsignor is quite taken aback by Ms Chair’s phonecall. He is even more surprised so by the proposal that Ms Chair makes.”
Ms Chair thinks through her proposed call to Monsignor Hapgood. She has points in her favour because of her initiative to embrace Faiths in Football. She is an Atheist which frees her from any commitment to any particular faith and enables her to speak freely and without any religious baggage. The two arrange to meet – on his “turf” – and Ms Chair makes her way to the Monsignor’s church.
Ms Chair has little time for small talk. She has an agenda and gets to the point in her opening words. The Monsignor listens intently. She has a problem. The Club is proving itself in high places. Progress has been maintained. The small unfashionable Club – to the surprise of most in the game – has not buckled. The catchment area of support has extended beyond Felixstowe. Club level prices for Seats and Boxes have increased but support has remained loyal.
There is a buzz of expectation in the Town, in the Council, in the Schools, in the Port but football so often hangs by a thread and trouble in the squad spells doom. No 5 can make or break the Club. He is one of the very best central defenders but discord in the dressing room can undermine team spirit. His priorities need to be redefined. His male ego and the feelings it generates have to be curbed.
Ms Chair has done her homework. Pope Francis is a football fan. He supports his local team, San Lorenzo. He was visibly disappointed when Argentina lost the World Cup in 2014 to Germany. In November 2023 the Pope met with Directors and Players of Celtic FC in Rome after a European Champions match and said “While it is true that winning rather than losing a match is always preferred, it is not the most important aspect! More vital is the example you give when winning or losing, both on and off the field. An example that embodies the virtues of courage, perseverance, generosity and respect for the God-given dignity of others.”
Monsignor Hapgood had also done his homework and was familiar with the Pope’s words. Ms Chair explained the need for FTFC to persuade the No 5 not to upset team spirit by seeking relationships with other players’ wives or girl friends and the exchange moved seamlessly to a request to the Monsignor to approach the No 5 to remind him of his priorities to the Club and the responsibilities that this involved.
The Meeting ends. It has gone well. Ms Chair talked about the Club, the Town, and focused on the words spoken by Pope Francis to Celtic FC.
The Monsignor realised that at one level he was being asked to speak to the No 5 about his morals but at another level he was being acting in accordance with the words of the Pope. Football was important and footballers and their responsibilities to society, too, were also important. The Monsignor was warming to his task. He recalled that a member of his staff had met with the No 5 and could perhaps be the intermediary to arrange a Monsignor/No 5 encounter.
EPISODE 6 – THE MONSIGNOR MEETS THE NO 5.